But I feel with him as with most of the young people of today: he has been sinned against more than he sins. The vinegar was given him to drink. Breaking reluctantly into German, since Italian seems foolish, and he won’t corne out in English, I find, within the first half-mile, that he is twenty-three (he looks nineteen), has finished his university course, is going to be an archaeologist, is travelling doing archaeology, has been in Sicily and Tunis, whence he has just returned; didn’t think much of either place–mehr Schrei wie Wert, he jerks out, speaking as if he were throwing his words away like a cigarette-end he was sick of; doesn’t think much of any place; doesn’t think much of the Etruscans–nicht viel wert; doesn’t, apparently, think much of me; knows a professor or two whom I have met; knows the tombs of Tarquinia very well, having been here, and stayed here, twice before; doesn’t think much of them; is going to Greece; doesn’t expect to think much of it; is staying in the other hotel, not Gentile’s, because it is still cheaper: is probably staying a fortnight, going to photograph all the tombs, with a big photographic apparatus–has the Government authority, like the Japs–apparently has very little money indeed, marvellously doing everything on nothing–expects to be a famous professor in a science he doesn’t think much of–and I wonder if he always has enough to eat.
He certainly is a fretful and peevish, even if in some ways silent and stoical, young man. Nicht viel wert!–not much worth–doesn’t amount to anything–seems to be his favourite phrase, as it is the favourite phrase of almost all young people today. Nothings amounts to anything, for the young.
Well, I feel it’s not my fault, and try to bear up. But though it is bad enough to have been of the war generation, it must be worse to have grown up just after the war. One can’t blame the young, that they don’t find that anything amounts to anything. The war cancelled most meanings for–them.
And my young man is not really so bad: he would even rather like to be made to believe in something. There is a yearning pathos in him somewhere.
We have passed the modern cemetery, with its white marble headstones, and the arches of a medieval aqueduct mysteriously spanning a dip, and left the highroad, following a path along the long hill-crest, through the green wheat that flutters and ripples in the sea-wind like fine feathers, in the wonderful brilliance of morning. Here and there are tassels of mauve anemones, bits of verbena, many daisies, tufts of camomile. On a rocky mound, which was once a tumulus, the asphodels have the advantage, and send up their spikes on the bright, fresh air, like soldiers clustered on the mount. And we go along this vivid green headland of wheat–which still is rough and uneven, because it was once all tumuli–with our faces to the breeze, the sea-brightness filling the air with exhilaration, and all the country still and silent, and we talk German in the wary way of two dogs sniffing at one another.Share It